Afghanistan: Women Sentenced for 'Moral Crimes'

In Afghanistan it is considered a moral crime to run away from one’s husband, even in cases of domestic violence or forced marriage. A new report from Human Rights Watch, I Had to Run Away, indicates that an estimated 400 women and girls are imprisoned for running away. Sentences can be over 10 years. Heather Barr, Afghanistan researcher at Human Rights Watch says that when judges convict women of running away, it is often on the basis of confessions that are signed without the presence of lawyers and without having been read to women who cannot read or write.
 
Punishment for running away is not included in the Afghan penal code, so convictions are made under Article 130 of the Afghan constitution, which states, “When there is no provision in the Constitution or other laws regarding ruling on an issue, the court’s decisions shall be within the limits of this Constitution in accord with the Hanafi jurisprudence and in a way to serve justice in the best possible manner.” Barr says this Article allows for wide interpretation of Islamic law, or Sharia.
 
The government has not opened any shelters for women facing domestic violence, so women are sent to NGO-run centers. There are only fourteen such shelters in all of Afghanistan, which is far from enough to accommodate the needs of victims of domestic violence. Moreover, police are generally not trained to handle domestic violence complaints from women and many victims still face “honor killings,” death, and torture.
 
Ozrala Ashraf Nemet, an Afghan human rights campaigner who works to mobilize women politically in Afghanistan says the legal department of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs has been established to protect women who may feel endangered due to these “moral crimes.”
 
 
Compiled from: Rights Group Criticizes Afghan ‘Moral Crimes,’ Ali M Latifi, Inter Press Service (9 April 2012), Afghan Women Victims Not Perpetrators of ‘Moral Crimes,’ Giuliana Sgrene, Inter Press Service (9 April 2012).